Illiquidity or Credit Deterioration: A Study of Liquidity in the US Corporate Bond Market during Financial Crises
Norwegian School of Economics (NHH)
WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business)
Marti G. Subrahmanyam
New York University - Stern School of Business
March 12, 2010
NYU Working Paper No. FIN-09-009
We use a unique data-set to study liquidity effects in the US corporate bond market, covering more than 20,000 bonds. Our analysis explores time-series and cross-sectional aspects of corporate bond yield spreads, with the main focus being on the quantification of the impact of liquidity factors, while controlling for credit risk. Our time period starts in October 2004 when detailed transaction data from the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) became available. In particular, we examine three different regimes during our sample period, the GM/Ford crisis in 2005 when a segment of the corporate bond market was affected, the sub-prime crisis since mid-2007, which was much more pervasive across the corporate bond market, and the period in between, when market conditions were more normal.
We employ a wide range of liquidity measures and find in our panel-regression analysis that liquidity effects account for approximately one-tenth of the explained market-wide corporate yield spread changes. During periods of crisis, the economic impact of the liquidity measures increases significantly. Our data-set allows us to examine in greater detail liquidity effects in various sub-segments of the market: investment grade vs. speculative grade bonds, financial sector firms which have been particularly affected by the crisis vs. industrial firms, and retail vs. institutional trades. In addition, our cross-sectional analysis based on Fama-MacBeth regressions shows that liquidity explains an important part of the variation in yield spreads across bonds, after accounting for credit risk. These results yield important insights regarding the liquidity drivers of corporate bond yield spreads, particularly during periods of crisis.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: liquidity, corporate bonds, financial crises, OTC markets
JEL Classification: G01, G12, G14
Date posted: September 8, 2009 ; Last revised: March 16, 2010